Crete : Regional Interest
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Lyttos ancient town
at 11.5km (S)
The ancient city of Lyktos or Lyttos (GR: Λύκτος / Λύττος) was one of the most ancient and powerful towns in Crete.
Although the excavations in the area reveal traces of habitation from the Hellenistic years onwards (630 B.C.), the archeologists Georgios Rethemiotakis and Angeliki Lempesi have excavated traces of habitation from the time of the destruction of Lyttos by the Knossians (219 B.C.) in excavated residences of the Hellenistic period.
From the Roman period, the city was subject to new workings as testified by the architectural remnants and the many inscriptions and statues discovered.
Numerous vestiges of ancient structures, objects, and broken marbles are seen, as well as an immense arch of a Roman aqueduct, by which the water was carried across a deep valley by means of a wide marble channel. Traces of the aqueduct which brought its water supply from Kournia, near Krasi village, are still visible today in the rural road to Kastamonitsa village. Lyktos had also a theatre, built in the slope of the hill the design of which we know only from the drawings of Belli (1586).
Finally, the most important discovery is that of a room of nearly 14 metres by 11.40 metres, with marble flooring and a series of four stone platforms along its two longer sides. The room was erected, according to the inscription that was found at the site, at the beginning of the second century B.C. This room was identified as the chamber of the Roman deputies of the city and was very probably destroyed by an earthquake at 365 AD.
Lyktos appears to have still been inhabited in the 7th Century AD as indicated by the excavation of late-roman shops in the area. (Late Roman Empire, 284-610 AD)
at 11.9km (E)
At the side of the gorge of Selinari, at the 42 km. of the national road Iraklion - Agios Nikolaos is the small old chapel and the newly founded monastery of Agios Georgios Selinaris. In the monastery there is also a home for the aged founded in 1963. The small chapel was probably founded early in the 16th century AD, and ever since it is a place of worshiping. The people passing through the chapel stop to light a candle to the saint. The chapel is considered miraculous, there are various legends concerning miracles related either with healing of sick people or with divine punishment of people that did not pay the respect due to the saint.
Institute of Marine Biology, Biotechnology and Aquaculture (IMBBC)
at 12km (W)
A modern competitive organisation, IMBBC (part of the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research - www.hcmr.gr) is widely recognized as one of the leading institutes in the Mediterranean. Its installations are located at Gournes, near Heraklion, Crete, where its laboratories, administration, library and conference facilities cover 1.500 m2. It has a wide range of state-of-the-art facilities needed to carry out its basic and applied research.
at 12.1km (W)
The CretAquarium - Thalassocosmos (GR: Θαλασσόκοσμος) was officially opened in December 2005. It provides its visitors with a special experience, a trip to the underwater world of the Mediterranean Sea and its creatures. It is a unique park whose focus is on science, education, culture and recreation and whose goal is to promote, share and spread knowledge concerning the marine environment.
at 12.2km (SW)
Polythéa (GR: Πολυθέα) is located 500 m NE of Kastelli at an altitude of 335m.N Nowadays Polythea has become part of Kasteli and it has 364 inhabitants.
Fr. Barozzi mentions it as Apigaiduri in 1577, belonging to the Pediada district and it continues to be known with that name until 1940, when it is re-baptized with its current name, Polythea.
The previous name of the village, Pigaidouri, is originated by the word ‘pigaidi', which is Cretan for ‘pigadi', which means ‘a well'. It is a nice name that propably has been changed due to the fact that people thought it was a reference to ‘gaidouri', which means ‘donkey'.
Apart from the ubiquitous raki and mezedes served at the kapheneions, you can also find rooms for rent.
A typical Cretan feast is held here on August 15th for the Virgin Mary (Assumption).
at 12.2km (E)
Near the beautiful village of Vrahasi there is the imposing gorge of Selinari, formed by the mountain of Anavlohos (625 m) to the north and the mountain Fonias o Detis (818 m) to the south. The symbol of Crete, the Cretan wild goat (Agrimi or kri-kri) and the Griffon Vulture are two rare species that used to reside in the gorge. The authorities in Vrahasi intend to establish a center of protection of the local fauna and flora at the gorge of Selinari and to develop a wildlife station, to provide observation of the Griffon Vulture colony at the east side of the gorge of Selinari. The hunting is forbidden in an area covering 10 sq.km. around the gorge.
at 12.3km (S)
Built at 510 m with 319 people Ksidás (GR: Ξυδάς) also known as Lyttos, is located at 3 km from Kastelli in the foothills of the site of the ancient town Lyttos. The first mention of the village goes back to 1368AD, with the name Ksidas.
A burial site was discovered when the road was being constructed, at Chomatolakkos, belonging to late Roman period.
Two gold rings have also been found here, the one with stone, showing the portrait of an emperor holding a spear, and the other with a hoop, showing two interlocking hands. A bronze ring with a Greek inscription, along with golden plates and bronze coins, were also found at this site.
at 12.7km (SW)
Kastelli (GR: Καστέλλι) is a small town in the countryside of the province of Pediada. It has over 2000 inhabitants and provides all the modern facilities and public services its residents and/or visitors may need. Many events are organized through the year by the municipality, the school and the cultural centre. In August a special festival, known as the Feast of Xenitemenou (ex-patriot feast) includes concerts, folklore, exhibitions and theatre plays.
at 12.7km (SW)
Diavaide (GR: Διαβαϊδέ) has 120 inhabitants and lies very near to Kasteli (700m to the SE) at 355m above sea level.
The earliest reference to the name is found in the Ducal Archives at Chandax in 1378. Another document in the same archives mentions a certain G. Dochiano, inhabitant of Diavaide.
In an inscription, found in the Byzantine church of Agios Georgios Sfakiotis, the name of the village is clearly mentioned, indicating that Diavaide existed well before the Turkish occupation. In that church there is a unique fresco of Byzantine art that represents Saint George and Saint Demeter passing through the sea on their horses, while at their feet lie various sea creatures; crabs, lobsters, and other fish, a strange phenomenon indeed, considering that the village is so far away from the sea. There is also the church of Agios Nikolaos in the village dated to the same period.
The village took part in all the main fights by Crete against the enemies of its freedom, while during German occupation the high college of Kastelli continued to operate in Diavaide houses.
The cultural association of the village, one of the first in this area, strives to maintain the cultural traditions and the continuity of village history through the years.
at 13km (S)
Kastamonitsa (GR: Κασταμονίτσα) is 7 km away from Kasteli, has 356 inhabitants and lies at 520 m above sea level, in the foothills of the Afendi mountain (1578 m), with the Dikti mountain in the background.
The village is not mentioned in the Venetian registers of the 16th and 17th centuries, nor in the Turkish census of 1671. It is possible that the name is related to that of Kastamoni in Asia Minor: refugees, driven out of their land by the Turks, may well have come and settled here, giving their new home the same name as their old one. But it is impossible to establish a precise date.
The Church of the Koimisi tis Theotokou (Dormition of Our Lady), located in the cemetery of the village, has wall paintings of the 14th century and points to a settlement here during the Venetian period. However, as we said before, the village is not mentioned in any Venetian census. The first reference is to be found in an Egyptian census conducted in 1834, where the village of Kastamonitsa is said to have 35 Christian families. And again in 1881, the village is said to have 320 Christian residents; no Turkish families are mentioned.
The location of the village on the way to the natural fortress of the Lassithi plateau which protects all of Eastern Crete, turned the area into a battlefield during the last century.
The Egyptian Pasha Hassan tried to invade the Lassithi plateau in 1822. The rebels cut him off between Krassi and Kastamonitsa, fighting him so well that he was forced to change his strategy and invade the plateau through its south side (Viannos and Ierapetra).
Other fierce battles took place in and around Kastamonitsa during the 1866-67 rebellions. Finally Omer Pasha, known as the Attila of Lassithi, found a way up through the glen at Geraki where an betrayer showed him the way.
A clay cast has been found in Mesarmi. It is elliptical in shape and has a width of about 0.25 m, and has a plaited decoration. A round glass vessel was also found at Xidiano Seli.
4 km out of the village you get to a lovely spot known as Mesada, where traditional celebrations take place on Easter Tuesday.The village boasts of several kapheneions and a taverna in the main square.
There is an active cultural centre, that organizes events especially in the summer. The most important and traditional feast is held on July 7th in honour of Aghia Kyriaki.
at 13.7km (S)
Amariano, a charming small village of 321 inhabitants, (census 2001), lies in the western foothills of Afendi mountain, at an altitude of 530m. It is located at 7, 2 km east of Kastelli and can be found on the road axis; Kasteli -Xidas- Kastamonitsa-Amariano.
With the traditional, century old plane tree in the middle of the village square, with the fountain, surrounded by kafeneions (traditional cafes) serving refreshments; raki (or tsikoudia, the traditional Cretan spirit) and mezedes (tit-bits), Amariano is a typical Cretan village, well worth a look. Until recently, the leather tannery was a main activity among the villagers. The main produce today are olive oil, raisins and grapes, although there is also livestock.
Close by is the church of Agios Giorgos Kefaliotis with good quality wall paintings.
The cultural centre of Amariano organises a great feast on August 15th, the Dormition of Theotokos and on September 20th, day of the patron saint, Aghios Eustathios. This can be a great occasion for any visitor to live an authentic cultural experience, to meet the people and taste the traditional Cretan cuisine.
The first mention of the village -Amariano and Mariano- is to be found in inscriptions dating back to 1394-1399. Fr. Barozzi also mentions it in the region of Pediada in 1577.
The name is significant: Amari is an area close to the town of Rethymnon, therefore the first inhabitants were originally from the Amari region. During the second Byzantine period, this region was known as Apano Syvritos and the name Amari is first mention in Venetian times. This would imply that the village was first founded during the Venetian conquest of the island. The first spelling, Amarianos, is the correct one and the family names Amarianos, Amargianitakis and Amariotis first appear in the 16th century, in the 1583 cencus.
at 14km (SW)
Apostoloi (GR: Αποστόλοι) is a village in the area of Kasteli, 360 m above sea level. It has about 490 inhabitants, and is located on the 32 km of the road leading to Kasteli in the NW part of Apostolianos Kampos, among vineyards and olive groves.
Until recently tannery was a main activity among the villagers.
The earliest reference to the name is to be found in a contract drawn in 1279, where Sancti Apostoli et Sophoro were lands belonging to the Venetian lord Leonardus Gradonicus, who gave them and leased them to Petro Quinino. There is another mention of the name in a document dated to 1378.
It is also quoted by Fr. Barozzi in 1577 as forming part of the Pediada district.
The name of the village finds its origins in the name of an old church dedicated to the Saint Apostles. The present church was built on the same site in the 19th century, in 1876. The church of Agios Giorgos is Byzantine and has wall paintings.
According to village tradition, on the night of Easter in 1841, the Turks caught the Cretan leader of the revolution for the Eastern part of the island, Giorgos Vassilakis, or Vassilakogiorgi and hanged him from a fig tree.The village kapheneions serve particularly good raki and on June 29th there is a great feast in the honour of the Saint Apostles, Peter and Paul.
at 14.1km (SW)
330 m above sea level, just out of Kasteli (1.5 km) to the east, lies the village of Archangelos (GR: Αρχάγγελος) with 433 residents.
It was founded in 961 by the military forces of Nikiphoros Phocas and was originally named ‘Varvaro’, and was still known by that name in 1583, where the Chandax Register puts it down as a village of the Pediada district with 37 inhabitants.
Its name was changed only recently, in 1961, to Archangelos, and the main village church in the square is dedicated to the Archangel Michael. There is another smaller and older church, that of the Panaghia, with Byzantine wall paintings. Remains of ancient mills can still be seen.
In a location known as Trochalos, archaeological finds have brought to light a series of Minoan tools dating back to the first and second Late Minoan periods.
As in every Cretan village, raki and ‘mezedes’ are always available at the kapheneions.
The feast of Michail Archangelos on November 8th is celebrated with much feasting in the village.
North - East Iraklion
at 14.3km (W)
Kokkíni Cháni (Kokkíni Háni - GR: Κοκκίνη Χάνι) is a beach resort located 14km east of the city of Heraklion, on the old national road from Heraklion to Agios Nikolaos.
The beach from Vatheianos Kambos, to the west, to Gournes, to the east, is protected by small piers that in some places form small lagoons. It has fine sand and it is clean and well cared, with umbrellas and sun chairs, lifeguards and sea sports.
The central street is lined with taverns, restaurants, bars, shops etc while the seaside street is less busy and ideal for walking.
Nirou Chani, North - East Iraklion
at 14.7km (W)
A Luxurious, two-storey house, built of large ashlar. The walls were strengthened by timber-frames and covered with a thick layer of plaster and marble slabs. The building has a paved courtyard, a shrine, storerooms for agricultural products, a staircase, and rooms with benches. It has been interpreted as a High Priest's house, due to the numerous ceremonial vessels it contained.
The house was probably built in the 16th century. C. (MM III period) and, after its destruction by fire in the 15th century BC (LM IB period), was finally abandoned.
The "Minoan Megaron" at Nirou was excavated in 1918 by St. Xanthoudides. In 1960, under the supervision of the Ephor of Antiquities N. Platon, the site was fenced and the building restored. The monument is consolidated and cleared at intervals by the 23rd Ephorate.
Daily: 8:30-15:00, Monday: closed
Entrance Fee:Free Admission
at 15.3km (SW)
At an altitude of 380m, with 63 inhabitants, Liliano (GR: Λιλιανό) is first mentioned in the Turkish census of 1671.
The Basilica with its three naves, dedicated to Saint John, was built in the 12th -13th centuries and is one of the oldest and the most interesting in Crete. The stones used in its construction came from earlier buildings. The three naves, with the middle nave higher than the other two, are supported by columns in Ionic style. The narthex in front is lower with wider arches, whereas the door and windows have pointed arches.
at 15.3km (S)
Mathia is 11 km to the SE of Kasteli, has 215 inhabitants and lies at 590 m above sea level, in the foothills of the Afendi mountain (1578 m), with the Dikti mountain in the background.
The earliest reference to the village can be found in several contracts of 1271 where the notary of Chandax P. Scardon mentions commercial exchanges of grain and wine with residents of the village ‘Mithie’, possibly a misspelling for Mathia. The name derives from the common first name for girls, ‘Mattia’, which in Crete is pronounced ‘Mathia’.
Burials in jars of the middle Minoan period were discovered in 1957 close to the village, in a place known as Stavroplaka. To the NW of the village, at Katalimata, a Late Minoan site with important finds and, 200 m further off, a settlement with large walls still in place were also found.There are wonderful Byzantine wall paintings in the two churches of this traditional village, the church of Koimisi tis Panagias (Dormition of Our Lady) and the church of Agios Giorgos.
At Metochi, in beautiful surroundings where the historical holm-oak of Ismail Pasha stands among plane trees and running water, there are camping facilities.
You can also visit an old factory and several ruined mills.
The village boasts of several kapheneions where they serve raki and ‘mezedes’ (tit-bits).
There is an active cultural centre, that organizes events especially in the summer, with evenings of Cretan music and theatre plays. The most important and traditional feast is held on the Sunday of Agioi Pantes, 50 days after Easter.
at 16km (SW)
Evangelismos (GR: Ευαγγελισμός) at 360 m above sea level, with 365 inhabitants, lies to the SW of Kasteli, distant only 5 km from the county town and about 35 km from Heraklion.
In earlier years, the village was called Mouktari or Mouchtari and its name figures in a 1381 contract for the buying and selling of grain.
The Byzantine church of the Panagia is worth a visit. On August 6th the village celebrates the feast of the Metamorphosis.
Evangelismos is the seat of the newly (2010) created municipality, according to the National "Kallikratis Project", by uniting the former municipalities of Kastelli, Thrapsano and Akalochori. The name of the new municipality is "Minoa Pediada"
Diktaian Cave (Dikteon Antron)
Psychro, Lassithi Plateau
at 16.2km (S)
The cave of Psychro is one of the most important cult places of Minoan Crete. The excavators and several scholars identify the cave as the famous "Diktaian Cave", where Zeus was born and brought up with the aid of Amaltheia and the Kouretes, and which is connected with myths as this of the seer Epimenides who "slept" here, or the coupling of Zeus with Europa.
Lassithi, Dikti Mountains
at 16.6km (S)
The Lassithi Plateau (GR: Οροπέδιο Λασιθίου, Oropedio Lasithiou), is a high endorheic plateau, located in eastern Crete, Greece on the mountain range of Dikti at an average altitude of 840 m, and in a distance of around 55km from Heraklion and 50km from Agios Nikolaos. The plateau is elliptical in shape with an E-W axis of 11km and the N-S of 7km.
The plateau of Lassithi is renowned for its exceptional agricultural produce, the thousands (almost 15000) windmills that used to be there in the past, its significant historical role and for the unique cave of Psychro also known as "Diktaion Andron".
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